With virtually no running in free practice one – as a problem with the surveillance cameras around the circuit kept red flags out for most of the session – FP2 became an even more crucial session for the team. It was Lewis Hamilton who set the fastest lap in FP2 in Canada, followed by George Russell and Carlos Sainz.
The final results do not reflect the usual excellent pace at Red Bull, though Canada has definitely been the best Friday of the season for Ferrari in terms of both short and long-run pace.
Aston Martin was nothing more than reasonable in qualifying trim. Alonso was unable to get close to the times of Hamilton and Russell on equal track conditions.
However, the AMR23 gave some encouraging signals in race pace simulation, at a circuit where Lawrence Stroll wants to see both Aston Martin machines on the podium. Sergio Perez seemed to have a difficult day, only finishing P8 in FP2.
FP2 Analysis: Uncertainty ahead of potentially wet Qualifying
Ferrari started off quite well right away, with Leclerc just a few tenths behind the Red Bulls in the first laps – despite running a slower compound on the SF-23, before expressing good feedback on the soft tyres.
Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll took to the track with two different configurations, with the Canadian fitting a less loaded wing, while Mercedes started FP2 in Canada with the usual work over slightly longer stints to collect initial data to optimize the trim.
Aston Martin arrives in Canada with new parts in the bottom area alongside new sidepods, in an effort to recover aerodynamic efficiency compared to the dominant Red Bull RB19.
The AMR23 is an excellent car, but it lacks some levels of downforce and efficiency. On Thursday, there was a lot of talk at Aston about widening the operating window of the English single-seater, one of the reasons for the team’s difficult weekend in Spain.
The final times are strongly influenced by track evolutions, especially concerning the Mercedes and Fernando Alonso, in addition to the sub-optimal flying laps set by Leclerc and Verstappen.
There are many unknowns ahead of qualifying, although the SF-23 seemed to perform significantly better shape on this rear-limited track, largely without the high-speed corners that Ferrari struggles with.
Third practice on Saturday will be important to understand the pecking order in Qualifying, although the weather could still throw a spanner in the works.
FP2 was interrupted by Nico Hulkenberg due to a major problem with the Ferrari engine of his VF23, which certainly would not have pleased the technicians at Maranello.
Within minutes Esteban Ocon also stopped in the second sector, in a similar fashion to Gasly in the first session. On a circuit that was supposed to confirm the competitiveness of the A523, the French team has not started the weekend very positively.
As usual, it was Mercedes who started the race simulations first, as they often have this year, then followed by the other teams with around 40 minutes to go.
You don’t need a crystal ball to predict a dominant Red Bull on Sunday, but Charles Leclerc showed a race pace on par with Max Verstappen on the medium tyres.
The SF-23 has shown good consistency and minimal degradation for now, alongside some good encouraging responsive behaviour in the last chicane, where the high curbs and the change of direction could put the Italian car in difficulty.
However, there is relatively minimal data from Aston Martin and Mercedes to certify the quality of Ferrari’s Friday in Canada.
Despite the technical problems on both cars, Alpine ended the day in tenth position with Pierre Gasly, behind only Valtteri Bottas if we exclude the 4 ‘top teams’ of this season.
The Frenchman’s race pace was very positive, but it will have to be confirmed on Sunday on equal terms with the other cars. Alfa Romeo was also positive, seventh and fourteenth in the final classification of the second free practice, while McLaren and Alpha Tauri were disappointing.
Williams showed up in Canada with an important package of updates: Alexander Albon’s FW45 gets a new floor, sidepods, bonnet, rear suspension, and rear wing endplate in a layout that should better suit the characteristics of the Grove’s car.
Albon closed the second free practice session with a relatively usual four-tenths advantage over his teammate. Logan Sargeant will probably mount the updates in two weeks in Austria.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Race pace: Toni Sokolov
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang